May 30, 2012

REVIEW: ABRAHAM LINCOLN VS. ZOMBIES


Someone fetch Lincoln his parcel. He’s got some ghoul heads to chop off.

Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies just might be the boldest move from The Asylum to date (though perhaps not as bold as their 9/11 movie, but, you know). The Asylum has received some pretty substantial hate over the years for their shameless direct-to-video rip-offs of big budget and theatrical horror remakes. (Depending on where the lawsuit stands, they may or may not currently have American Battleship on shelves while the “real” Battleship is currently sinking in theaters.) The Asylum’s defense of this tactic has always been that they were/are merely doing the same thing big Hollywood was doing – giving audiences a movie they’ve already seen, but with a similar sounding title.

Using that argument, there really is no excuse for Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies, their take on the bigger-budgeted Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer, hitting theaters soon. To rip off such an absurd concept and title…that goes above and beyond simply pointing and laughing at a major studio-produced remake. But so far they’ve somehow gotten away scot-free, and with this latest release they’ve added just one more film to their ever-growing archives. Their business model seems a successful one: their casts have gone from complete unknowns to recognizable actors who are either in on the joke or desperate for work.

With that said, Lincoln Vs. Zombies is the best film from The Asylum's hovering-somewhere-over-100-film archive. I’ve seen a lot of The Asylum’s films, and they’ve all left me in various levels of coma. But this one, however…it was pretty watchable. I don’t think I was left injured at all.


The title should more than clue you in what it's about, but the year is 1863, and we find Lincoln dealing not just with the confederacy, but a growing army of the undead. And he’s not the only one fighting the battle. Joining Lincoln are General Stonewall Jackson (leader of the confederate army), Pat Garret (infamous assassin of Billy the Kid) and even a very young and completely unnecessary Teddy Roosevelt, among others whose names the more learned of you should recognize.

When word reaches Lincoln that soldiers “infected” with some kind of disease are all over Fort Pulaski, eating faces and committing all sorts of zombtrocities, he dispatches a group of 12 men (with him at the helm) to visit the fort and see what’s the what. Well, they see what’s the what, all right. GHOULS. Wearing old-fashioned Civil War-era garb and huge bow ties.

As the 12 men begin to die off, one of them begins to doubt Lincoln’s tactics. He thinks the problem could be better taken care of. He’s an actor, you see…with a great big bushy mustache and a small, wooden Derringer. If you stayed awake for five minutes during your American history class, you can see where this is going.

Lincoln vs. Zombies is perfectly disposable entertainment. After seeing the promotional materials for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer (you know, the “real” Lincoln movie), I will say this: Bill Oberst Jr. plays a far more convincing Lincoln than that nine-year-old kid they found for the Tim Burton-produced film (although with The Asylum's proven relationship with genre legend Lance Henriksen, why the hell didn't they call him??). While he's forced to spit out some cheesy dialogue, his performance is rather straight forward and feels quite genuine. He approaches the "character" as if he were in a more legitimate project. It doesn't stray too far from all the other Lincolns we've seen over the years, but it shouldn't have to. Plus it’s genuinely fun seeing him lop off heads with his switchblade scythe, which impossibly fits into and disappears within the confines of his suit jacket as if we were in a cartoon. And I guess we are.

Some of LvsZ might make you groan. Even though the film’s concept is as subtle as a sledgehammer to a bucket of testicles, Lincoln handing young Roosevelt a shovel and telling him to “speak softly and carry a big stick,” or swinging a scythe at a ghoul head and bellowing “emancipate this!” is still obnoxiously on the nose. If your audience is groaning during a movie with this as your concept, you may have gone too far.

The zombie's make up effects are fairly simple, but effective. The gore effects are fun, if perhaps limited in scope. The gushing blood and flying heads are CGI, and there’s plenty of both.

The last act of the film is shot in the real Fort Pulaski, located in Savannah, and this touch of real history is appreciated, so I'll ignore the fact that the structure clearly showcases all two hundred of its years, and not the thirty it would have been at that time. And I can't say I blame them for not "touching up" any of their surroundings, as I'm sure such a thing would have been forbidden by the National Parks Service. It's a minor complaint, really, given the fort's beauty.

I will definitely say this: LvsZ doesn't end in a way that's indicative of the kind of film it is, or of the kinds of film The Asylum makes. In fact, it's a rather poignant ending that makes you look at the real-life assassination of Abraham Lincoln in a different way. It's certainly not the way I expected an otherwise silly and over-the-top film to end. I suppose there are folks out there who will lambaste the film's plot, calling it disrespectful to the memory of one of our country's greatest leaders, but the ending chosen allows Lincoln some dignity. Not bad for a movie that has something like 50 severed heads and some truly horrendous fake beards.

Sic semper Asylum.

But here is my main gripe:

Historical Figure + Monsters = a really cheap and stupid concept for a movie, regardless of who is producing it. I’m not in too big of a hurry to see the “real” Lincoln movie, but I will say this: its concept is so daringly stupid that it demands a certain kind of respect from the audience. Filmmakers rip off Halloween or Paranormal Activity over and over again, and no one (beyond their annoyance) can muster the enthusiasm to care. And they will continue to be ripped off from now until the end of time because their concepts are (now) very basic. But a former dead president re-imagined as an undead-killing vigilante, stupid as the concept may be, is "special," and as such it does feel a little cheap that it's been re-appropriated in a sort of "ha ha, we're first"-type move. (Although the more films out there bringing exposure to Abraham Lincoln, wildly inaccurate and ludicrous as they may be, the better. I say this because “these kids” today are so massively retarded that they thought Titanic was just a movie, and not based on something that actually happened, so here’s hoping they're aware Lincoln was, ya know, a real dude).

The Asylum’s films have been getting better…in terms of their production levels, cast, and even their ability to produce original (scream!) concepts. I hear they might even be prepping their first theatrical release.

If you're not familiar with The Asylum's repertoire, watch Lincoln vs. Zombies on streaming if you can, or make it a one-night rental from Redbox. If you consider yourself a fan of the mini (mini mini) studio, you'll have a good time with this one. It doesn't ask a lot of you, nor should you of it.


2 comments:

  1. You are right about Lance Henriksen. He was terrific in The Day Lincoln Was Shot and would have been an awesome Lincoln in this!

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